It is surely very difficult to come to a balanced judgement concerning cantata 29. Not only is there a superb arrangement for organ and orchestra of the E Major partita for solo violin (BWV 1006) acting as an opening sinfonia but the first chorus was later to become the Gratias agimus tibi and the Dona nobis pacem in the b-minor Mass For me, this latter is probably the most moving three minutes in all music. So after hearing these two superb pieces at the opening of the cantata, carrying all the baggage of association that they bring, the rest of the cantata is almost bound to come as an anti-climax however good it is. As it happens, the rest of it is very good.
About the opening sinfonia, I will simply point out that the organ gets all of the violin part and that the orchestra accompanies, with some very effective use of pedal point at times. (Bach was so good at using pedal points, go and listen to the F Major Toccata BWV 540 if you need reminding). All that I have to say about the opening chorus (Wir danken dir) is that it is sublime. Before the superbly exuberant closing chorale (with full orchestra trumpets and drums), there are three far more subdued arias separated by recitatives. The second aria, for soprano, is the best of these, a lilting siciliano with gorgeous orchestral accompaniment. The other two are thoroughly pleasant, the first for tenor with obbligato violin, the third for alto with obbligato organ.
Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.